The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals:
What Employers Need to Know

The recent downsizing of many companies due to the economic changes has often placed the management of occupational health, safety and environmental programs on human resource professionals or business owners, who lack the benefit of experience or education in this field.

As the human resource person or business owner you now have the responsibility of managing your company’s safety and environmental programs. Congratulations!  But what do you do and where do you start?  Safety and protecting the environment is a full time job considering the numerous safety and environmental related areas you need to be aware of: safety procedures, TIER II reporting, worker training, OSHA and EPA standards, reasonable accommodations, SPCC plans, workers’ compensation, accident investigations, GHS, recordkeeping, storm water permits, return-to-work Issues, safety committees…various forms…and the list goes on and on.

For this month’s article, let’s start with GHS. New changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard are bringing the United States into alignment with GHS. GHS is an acronym for The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The GHS is a system for standardizing and harmonizing the classification and labelling of chemicals. GHS affects hazard communication in the workplace. In 2003, the United Nations adopted this system and OSHA made it the law of the land on May 26, 2012.

This means if your employees work with hazardous chemicals, then you, the employer, are required by this law to train them to the updated OSHA standard by December 1, 2013.  The new standard requires that workers be trained on the new label elements and the new safety data sheet format. Full compliance with GHS will begin in 2015.

What can I do as an employer to be prepared for this significant transition?  You have just over 6 short months until your employees must be trained.  Start compiling training materials now to ensure your team will be better prepared and ready to train your current and future employees on the new pictogram definitions, signal words, hazard classification categories and hazard and precaution statements, along with the new SDS format. Keeping up-to-date inventories of all hazardous chemicals and the status of the MSDS/SDS will be essential. While the GHS transition may seem overwhelming and taxing to an already full workload, OSHA has provided enough time for companies to come into compliance with the updated regulation.  To get more information on this updated OSHA standard visit their website at

Michael L. Miozza has directed the environmental, health and safety systems for several major corporations and has over twenty years of experience in the area of regulatory compliance.

He is nationally recognized as a Certified Safety Professional and a Certified Professional Environmental Auditor. Michael is the founder of Health and Safety Solutions, Inc. a provider of health, safety and environmental compliance solutions.  For more information, please visit or call toll free at (855) 785-8562.